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U.S. District Court Rules CDC Eviction Order Unconstitutional

“Although the pandemic persists, so does the constitution.”

On February 25, Judge J. Campbell Barker of the U.S. District Court, East Texas ruled in Lauren Terkel et al. v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction order is unconstitutional. Judge Barker argued that “although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” ruling that the federal government's Article I power to regulate interstate commerce and enact laws necessary and proper to that end does not include the power for the federal government to impose an eviction moratorium.

In response, the National Apartment Association (NAA) issued a statement applauding the court’s ruling. NAA has long held that the CDC overstepped their authority in issuing the order and remains fundamentally opposed to eviction moratorium policies, which leave renters at greater risk of displacement and jeopardize the stability of an industry that houses one-third of Americans. Though well-intended, these policies saddle financially strapped renters with unsurmountable debt and leave housing providers, many of whom are small owners and cannot afford it, stuck with footing the nation’s rental housing bill. Rather, NAA remains steadfast in supporting swift, streamlined rental assistance - the only solution that allows people to stay in their homes and housing providers to provide safe and sustainable housing for years to come.

NAA also sent a letter to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urging the CDC to formally rescind and cease enforcement of the order immediately. In its Opinion and Order, the Court noted that “Given defendants’ representations to the court… it is 'anticipated that [defendants] would respect the declaratory judgment.' So the court chooses not to issue an injunction at this time.”

Accordingly, NAA encouraged Dr. Walensky to rescind the order to provide clarity and consistency. In the letter, NAA also emphasized its hope to continue working with the Administration and Congress to forge sustainable solutions to the COVID-19 housing crisis like emergency rental assistance that meet both the needs of renters and housing providers.

Furthermore, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced their disagreement with the Court’s ruling and have appealed the decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. NAA expects that the Court will hear the appeal in the near future. As always, NAA will remain focused on advocating for sustainable housing policies and will continue to provide updates as this situation continues to develop over the coming days and weeks.